The Sunday Mail
The Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals (ZACH) has held its annual conference in Harare early this week.
The conference evolved around issues of gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV emerging from SASA communities. Sasa is a Kiswahili word that means now (now is the time to prevent violence).
The mandate of SASA is to have a community mobilisation approach for primary prevention of violence against women and girls, and HIV.
ZACH social worker, Dennis Dzikiti, said lack of coherence in policies and laws has resulted in abuse of women and the rise of HIV.
“Age of consent to sex is 16 years but consent to marriage is 18 years,” he said.
“This results in one being sexually active at a tender age and might be a victim of HIV or in the event of being raped the perpetrator might claim that they had sexual intercourse with the consent of the victim,” he added.
ZACH revealed that another factor that is causing abuse of women and girls is the failure of families to take care of its members who could have been impregnated.
“There are poor support systems for impregnated girl children whose marriage cannot be sanctioned,” said Mr Dzikiti.
“Communities feel that the Government should chip in and assist with material support in such instances. Families do not want to carry the burden of looking after such children.
“Zimbabwe is a signatory of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) which put obligations on the Government of Zimbabwe towards a rights-based and child justice system validating the communities view,” he added.
ZACH said cultural beliefs are a barrier for women to access contraceptives and receive education on sex.
“The general consensus is that whilst children can have information about contraceptives, the community and its leaders are against the distribution of contraceptives to children especially the school-going age,” said Mr Dzikiti
“Young women and female children are afraid to access services due to the stigma associated with these,” he said.